The Christmas Challenge

I’ve been getting into the world of Westerns lately, and was lucky that my introduction to it was through The Christmas Challenge, The Wilder Brothers Book 3, by Sinclair Jayne.

Heat Level:❤️❤️❤️

Genre: Western, Holiday Romance

Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

Tucker goes back to the Triple T Ranch as little as possible. But when her twin sister plans her wedding for Christmas Eve, Tucker has no choice but to leave LA and head home to Marietta, Montana. She plans on being the perfect wedding helper and staying so far out of trouble, no one in town can even begin to gossip. However, she has a less than chaste background with the groom and when a hot cowboy comes within range of Tucker, she finds it hard to say no.

Laird has to Marietta with one goal in mind, to unlock the secrets of his past. He doesn’t expect Tucker to be the first person he meets. She’s a redhead with a bite and he’s drawn to her like no other. But she’s made a promise to herself to stay away from sex, so he makes due with coffee meetups and midnight ice skating.

Their secrets bind them together and they confide in one another with the knowledge that after the Christmas wedding, they’ll both go home. But midnight skating turns into all night talking and some chemistry no one can ignore.

Okay, I want to start with the chemistry between Tucker and Laird. The way they skimmed the unspoken line people do before falling into bed was electric. I just wanted to push them together and yell, “just get in bed!” But the slow burn between them was just another element I really enjoyed, and in retrospect, wouldn’t change a thing.

Tucker’s growth in the book was also very well done. She blew into Marietta as a headstrong, selfish, girl, but by the end, she certainly learned a few lessons on humility and patience. But her flaws made her human and the way she was able to self-reflect was fantastic.

Overall, The Christmas Challenge was a funny, sweet but sexy, holiday romance that made me want to put on my ice skates.

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Bad to the Crone

I love all things witchy, so when the fabulously talented Meghan Kelly came to me with Bad to the Crone by Amanda M. Lee, I was sold. I’ve heard of the author, but this was my first work by her.

  • Heat Level:❤️
  • Genre: Paranormal, Cozy Mystery
  • Story Rating: 4/6 Glass Slippers
  • Narration Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

Scout’s origins are a mystery. After being left as a toddler at a fire station with no memory of her parents, she’s taken in and given a name. As she grew, it became apparent that she had a special set of gifts. She feels it’s her duty to use her powers for good and joins a biker club called the Spells Angels to fight evil. It means a nomadic lifestyle, loose roots, and the chance to find out where she came from.

When she rolls into Hawthorn Hollow, it’s quieter than she expected and Scout can’t imagine what dangers the small town could possibly hide. It’s so little, she doesn’t even need her bike to get around. But it turns out evil likes small and quiet, the kind of cozy places where neighbors trust one another and never lock their doors.

With a team of powerful witches, including a broody, handsome Gunner, Scout fights to keep her new post as monster-free as possible. But questions about her own past and getting to know the ins and outs of her new crew makes for a complicated time for our witchy heroine.

I wish the actual Spells Angels bikers played a bigger part in the book. It had great potential and I thought a witch on a motorcycle was such an awesome idea, but once she’s in Hawthorn Hollow, Scout’s biker crew is just, well, a crew. It would have made more sense to just make it a coven instead of build up the biker stuff in the beginning just for it to fall a little flat. Since this is a series, I’m hoping the next books have some serious Harley vibes.

Scout was a fun character and I really want to know the rest of her backstory. Strong female leads who don’t take any back talk are some of favorites and her sassy comebacks were always welcome. Perhaps Gunner might be strong enough to take her on, but who knows what their idea of romance would be! Knowing them, it’d be rounding up some varied and hitting the biker bar for some wings.

The narrator Kelly couldn’t disappoint me if she tried. This particular cast of characters was wild compared to the traditional romances of hers I’ve heard in the past. The range of her voice is always impressive. She’s gone from a sweet school teacher in the Midwest to a werewolf king to a strong biker witch and have none of them sound the same. I like to think I could identify each of the books she’s worked on with nothing more than a character clip! Maybe I’ll try that one time and put my possible skills to use.

Overall, Bad to the Crone was a fun, light listen that’s squeaky clean, making it safe for fans of all ages.

Aliens and Ice Cream

Happy Sunday everyone! Start the week with a new book, Aliens and Ice Cream by Michael James,

Aliens.

They’re everywhere. 

If you go outside, they’ll kill you. 
If you try to run, they’ll kill you. 

Ice cream probably won’t help.

On an entirely normal summer day, the sky rips apart and aliens pour from the wound. Black, featureless pods, they are horrifying in their efficiency, killing anything that steps foot outside. Inexplicably, they don’t attack anyone indoors. 

No one knows where they came from, what they want and when—or if—they’ll go away. Matt Cutler wanted to spend Sunday with his family. Now, he’s trapped in a tree fort outside his house with his neighbor, Heather Keene, and his little sister Abby. 

They can’t go outside. 

They’re running out of water. 

If dehydration doesn’t kill them, the aliens will. 

But Matt thinks he’s figured out a way to save everyone… if the aliens don’t kill him first.

Irish Reads

Ireland is a colorful country with a history and culture that’s reflected in its art. The book are no different, and I just wanted to throw out a few of my favorite works by Irish authors. Some you’ve probably read, a few have movie deals, and others are hidden gems from the Emerald Isle.

The Wanderings of Oisín by W.B. Yeats is technically a book of poems. While I’m not a poetry expert, or normally even a fan, I really enjoy how he fleshed out Irish legends and think he did a marvelous job. For the full effect of his work, look up “The Stolen Child.” You’ll see what I mean.

You’ve probably seen Brooklyn, starting fabulous Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, but Brooklyn was a book first by Irish author Colm Tóibín. It’s a very moving piece of fiction about a young woman named Ellis who leaves Ireland for America and ends up straddling two worlds. It’s a book about tough decisions that belongs on any bookshelf.

Here’s another book turned movie where the book is better, in my opinion. PS. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern is about a widow named Holly, living in Dublin and grieving the premature loss of her husband. He left her a stack of letters to help her through life without him. It’s a tear-jerker for sure!

Seventeen year old Maggie was a steerage passenger on the Titanic who woke up in New York. She decides to never return to her native Ireland, or speak of her journey again. But secrets never stay that way forever in The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor.

How Many Miles to Babylon by Jennifer Johnston explores class differences in Ireland before the onset of WWI. An aristocrat and one of his laborers begin a friendship that follows them into the trenches. It’s a historical fiction of the highest caliber.

The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill is a novel that fits perfectly in the historical thriller section of any personal library. A mysterious death in Northern Ireland brings two women together, intertwining their lives for decades.

Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes is a romantic comedy suitable for anyone who wants a light read. After visiting a psychic, Lucy thinks there might be love on the horizon, but life’s never that easy.

Here’s a dark comedy that takes place in Cork. There’s a wild cast of character in The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney that are brought together by an accidental crime that has unintended consequences.

That’s it for my short list! Have you read any of these books, or do you have any others to add? Let me know in the comments!

Hang Your Heart on Christmas

It may not be Christmas anymore, but New Jersey is still completely freezing, meaning that books with a winter feel get first dibs on my list. This lovely Friday, I have the sweet audiobook Hang Your Heart on Christmas, written by Heather Blanton, Narrated by Meghan Kelly.

Genre: Sweet Western Romance

Heat Level: ❤️

Story Rating: 5/6 Glass Slippers

Narration Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

Dent wasn’t always a stone cold killer. Granted, a steady shot and a way with a noose has made him one of the best US Marshall’s in the west, but with each dead outlaw, he loses more of himself. And until he finds the man who killed his father so many years before, he won’t hand in his badge or hang up his guns.

Amy just moved to Evergreen, Wyoming to be the sleepy town’s new school teacher. She fled her home for her new post with a few scars that left her scared of men, the dark, and the unknown. She was promised the quiet life, and intends to heal with the help of her adorable students and a new place.

They’re so different, they immediately butt heads. Any thinks Dent is surly and abrasive. Dent thinks Amy is dull and too bookish. But you know what they say about opposites attracting. And when the towns new mayor and a mystery from the past invades Evergreen, the marshall and the teacher might have to join forces.

I thought this book was adorable. The romance was sweet with a nice, slow burn that really built up over time. It allowed me to get invested in Dent and Amy as characters without the “insta-love” some stories have. They had their own identities outside of the romance, which I loved. It wasn’t just a man and a woman, it was two individuals with complicated feelings and pasts that weren’t just slapped on a page.

The action in the book, which I won’t go into so I don’t spoil anything, also added a nice layer. Sometimes with sweet romances, it’s easy for me to get bored. But with murder, crime, and mysteries to keep things spicy, I was fully invested. The one thing I felt was missing, was the Christmas. They were carving pumpkins, not decorating for the holidays, so I would have liked to see more Christmas from a book with it in its title.

Finally, how is it that Meghan Kelly seems to get more talented with every book? Really, I was impressed with the first, but it’s like she keeps surprising me with the range of her voice. I think by the next one, I’ll be able to identify each character by tone alone! Between the light accents and the inflections unique to each character, she does a lovely job.